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Smart meter installations in B.C.: What, when and why

Contributor
By Contributor
August 20th, 2011

A letter from BC Hydro:

Transforming the global electricity grid has been compared in significance to building a highway system or developing the Internet.

In much the same way, putting a modern grid in place will take time. In British Columbia, the first steps are being taken.

BC Hydro’s Smart Metering Program was officially launched in July, marking the beginning of an installation schedule that will affect every home and business in BC Hydro’s service area.

Exchanging an existing meter with a smart meter is the first step toward modernizing the grid, leading to changes to electricity generation while keeping rates among the lowest in North America.

What’s in it for me?

Today, BC Hydro doesn’t know that the power is out unless someone calls them. With smart meters, they will know when the power goes out, and will have a more accurate picture of where the outage is and what caused it.

That will speed up the restoration process, and reduce the time spent by their crews searching for the cause.

They will also know more accurately whether they have restored all of the customers. The way the system works today, they will restore a downed power line and leave the area, only to find out that some customers are still without power.

This means they have to send crews all the way back to the neighbourhood – and that’s inefficient, costly and inconvenient for customers.

Another benefit of smart meters is that it will give BC Hydro a more accurate picture of the province’s own energy use. Many people will want to save more money by using less power.

Smart meters and a modern grid will provide more information and new optional conservation tools such as access to a secure online account and in-home feedback devices.

These tools will show you how much energy your home is using and translate it into dollars and cents. Having the right information at the right time will help you to find new ways to conserve and save money.

Giving people options

BC Hydro says they have heard from customers and communities all over the province that they want more options to generate their own electricity, and sell what they don’t use back into the grid.

Thanks to smart meters and a modern grid, in the future BC Hydro will be able to accommodate small-scale clean energy sources at the community and even the individual level.

Commonly asked questions

What can I expect?
All customers will receive advance notice that smart meters are coming to their community, including a letter a few weeks prior to their installation date.

Installation will be simple and will only take a matter of minutes, and in most cases customers will not need to be home.

Will I be charged for my new meter?
No, you will not see a line item on your bill for your smart meter. The Smart Metering Program will pay for itself by delivering $1.6 billion in benefits, over 20 years, in today’s dollars.

Will the Smart Metering Program increase my rates?
No. Smart meters will save BC Hydro customers money by reducing rate pressures by $70 million over the next three years alone.

Smart meters are an important step in modernizing our electricity system, and improve safety, reliability and customer service.

This will help us all save energy and save money. The Smart Metering Program will help BC Hydro keep its rates among the lowest in North America.

How does a smart meter help me monitor my energy use?
Smart meters enable you to receive more timely information on your energy consumption.

For example, a secure BC Hydro website will display how much energy you have used, when it was used and at what cost – up to the previous day.

This tool will be available in spring 2012. Additional tools, like optional in-home displays which provide you with near real-time electricity consumption information, are expected to be available in 2013.

Is my personal information secure?
Yes. Smart meters collect the same information we do today, only more frequently. Instead of having your meter read every two months, your consumption data will be sent to BC Hydro four to six times a day.

Protecting your privacy is our top priority and extensive security and privacy provisions are in place for the Smart Metering Program. BC Hydro will use data encryption like online banking systems. All personal information will be handled in accordance with the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Is the technology safe?
Yes. Smart meters will communicate for a total of one minute per day. The exposure to radio frequency from a smart meter – over its entire 20-year life span – is the equivalent of a single 30 minute cell phone call.

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